South Korea’s financial regulator said on Friday that local credit card firms can introduce Apple Pay, the long-awaited mobile payment service of US tech giant Apple, as they have followed relevant procedures.

There have been reports for months that Hyundai Card, a local credit card unit of Hyundai Motor Group, is in talks with Apple over the launch of Apple Pay which allows customers to make payments using iPhones and other Apple devices.

Market watchers initially expected the service to be launched late last year. Financial authorities had reportedly reviewed whether the Apple Pay service runs counter to local regulations and laws.

“Having taken into consideration relevant rules and regulations and their interpretations, we confirm that credit card companies can push for the introduction of the Apple Pay service as they have obeyed necessary procedures,” the Financial Services Commission (FSC) said in a release.

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The FSC emphasized that credit card firms should not transfer fees arising from the use of Apple Pay to customers or shops, while calling for measures to ensure customer protection from such risks as the theft of personal information.

A Hyundai Card official declined to comment.

Experts say that Apple Pay could be launched in the middle of the first half.

Apple Pay has not been available to local customers due in part to the strong dominance of Samsung Electronics Co.’s smartphones and a lack of technological infrastructure for the near-field communication (NFC) system, a short-range wireless protocol that the service depends upon.

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The launch of Apple Pay is expected to strengthen competition in the local mobile payment market, currently dominated by Samsung Electronics’ Samsung Pay, based on the magnetic secure transmission (MST) technology.

The FSC expressed hope that the introduction of Apple Pay could enhance convenience to customers and bolster the development of new payment services based on the NFC technology going forward.